The story of Naomi is easily overlooked in the Bible. If the book of Ruth was a movie Naomi’s character would not even be on the movie poster. Naomi gets a bad wrap. We categorize her a cranky old lady. But let’s take a deeper look.
In a time when a woman’s worth was ranked by her husband and the number of children she had (especially sons) Naomi starts off good, two sons and one faithful husband. Then her husband dies, she’s a widow, but that’s okay because she has two sons. Then her two sons die. Now what? Who would want to marry a childless widow at her age? Oh and then there is the added drama of her two daughters in law that are also widows. Talk about a Lifetime movie! What is she supposed to do with them?
She does the logical thing and tells them to go back to their homes and back to their families. Orpah does go back but Ruth does not. I love Ruth 1:18 where it says, “When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.” I can see Naomi pleading with this widow, “Just go back! My son should have never married an idol worshiper anyways. Go back and leave me to my misery.” That is, of course, my paraphrase. What happens next is interesting to me also.
Naomi and Ruth arrive in Bethlehem and the whole town is buzzing about Naomi’s arrival and instead of revel in her fame, as it was, Naomi says, “Don’t call me Naomi, call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord had brought me back empty.” Some commentaries have compared Naomi to a female Job given the circumstances of her day.
Drink that in: famine, death of a spouse, death of children, moving back home, and moving back with your son’s widow at that. Sounds a lot like Job except Naomi didn’t have the “wise” counsel of Job’s friends.
Naomi’s wisdom in the this book is what leads to the romance of Ruth and Boaz. Naomi’s strength to keep moving after all that happened to her had to be an example to Ruth, who in her own right, had tragedies of her own to overcome. It’s easy to see past Naomi’s example faithfulness because of the romance between Ruth and Boaz but remember, Naomi was an Israelite and obviously this Moabite woman saw something in Naomi’s household she wanted. She saw faith in a living God being practiced in Naomi’s house.
I put Naomi in the “She Who Is Able” category because she was able. God made her able. Think about the things that confine us to our bed to have a pity party: bad hair day, laziness, depression, etc. Naomi could have had a giant, very justified, pity party but she moved on to attempt to finish well. Carolyn Custis James says this about Naomi, “Naomi is here to remind us that–in those long, bewildering phases of God’s silence–our struggles are real and we can be honest about the state of our hearts.”
Just like Job and David and Naomi you can question God and plead for answers and plead for resolve. And just like Job and David and Naomi He will come through. Maybe not as fast as we mere humans would like but He will come through. We read in Ruth 4:17 after Ruth and Boaz had conceived, “The women said to Naomi, “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May He become famous throughout Israel!” Note the “!.” These ladies were excited for Naomi, her God had come through and He did not leave her. He will not leave you but you must cling to Him as Naomi clung to Him–for dear life.